A few weeks ago I was having a chat with one of the mothers from my son’s preschool as we watched our boys play in the park. We were talking about my job and how I worked flexibly to balance work and time at home with my kids. She was telling me that before she had children she had a successful finance career but after 8 years being at home, she felt things had moved on so much at work that she would not have the skills to work anymore. In addition to not being sure how she could juggle her kids and work at the same time. This mum’s story stuck with me – and when I was coincidentally asked whether I would like to support Deloitte’s ‘Return to Work’ program, I jumped at the chance.
I am a Director working in Deloitte’s Finance Transformation Consulting practice; I am a mother of two; and I have been working flexibly for over seven years now. I took time off work when both of my children were babies and cherished the time I had at home with them. I had always planned to return to work part time but when the time came, I had mixed feelings. On one hand I was really looking forward to getting back into it but on the other hand, I felt apprehensive. Would I have forgotten everything since going on maternity leave? Would my kids suffer? What if I was asked to travel?
It certainly took some adjustment. I tried every combination of days off, scaled my days up and down and worked out a balance of day care / babysitter support to best suit me and the family. I am not sure there is a perfect solution but I soon realised the best way for me to manage was to really prioritise what’s important– for my kids, my work and for me – and just let the rest go. I try my best to attend the important events for the kids even if it is on a work day and likewise, I will occasionally attend significant client meetings on my day off if there is no flexibility to move them. For me, flexible working is having the autonomy to change the structure of my week to best support my team at work as well as my kids.
Deloitte in particular has been very supportive of my flexible work arrangements. A couple of months ago, I scaled my days back temporarily because I felt I didn’t have the balance right for that period of time – I had one child in short-day preschool, the other in school, many after-school activities and it was a particularly busy time for my husband. It was such a relief to not be so rushed and also have the opportunity to do things I haven’t been able to do previously like be the class mum and help with reading groups. When both my children go to school together next year and schedules better align, I plan to once again scale up my work days.
When I think back to the mum in the park, I know there must be so many other women like her out there who have the qualifications and ambition to really succeed in a corporate work environment – if only they were also given the opportunity and structured support to balance their family and work commitments.
By Andrea Abusah, Director – Finance & Performance Management, Deloitte Australia. This blog piece is one of a series of three about flexible working at Deloitte, in line with our #ReturnToWork program in Sydney and Melbourne. You can find out more, and browse flexible roles with Deloitte through FlexCareers here.